This week, CIO.com published an article debunking a commonly held misconception in the world of software development. While many big legacy companies banish agile development and strategy to few departments to avoid any reverberating hiccups affecting other operations, with improved communication and a far-reaching, believable vision, developmental agility can be an incredible asset to a large company.
Enter: us! Author Sharon Florentine cites Extensis’ organization-wide transition from a top-down, authoritative-driven developmental model to a more nimble and agile mode of operation. Toby Martin, VP of Products & Strategy explains, “We wanted to get more nimble and agile with our releases…and get or new products to the market faster.”
18 months ago, Extensis executed this major transition in operations. Rather than cutting corners to get to releases faster, Extensis scaled down to right-sizing documentation and right-sizing process to maximize individual efforts and to craft the overall process to be more nimble and responsive. Jennifer Jaffe, vice president of product and marketing at Jama Software sees this as a unique win for a larger scale company. “There’s a key misconception,” she says, “agile isn’t anti-documentation or anti-process, which is what many large organizations fear.”
Employing a grassroots methodology, treating the less effective operations at the roots was imperative in Extensis’ reorganization. It all started with a company-wide buy-in, Martin explains, and a hired agile trainer and coach to establish a framework for this transition while educating the workforce.
Once a single development team caught stride with the new workflow, the other two teams were able to step in. “Once we had the agile mindset, the processes, the tools and the language down, we could look at how to tweak that for our own individual teams,” says Martin. “That’s the great thing about agile—it makes you nimble, but in and of itself it’s also very flexible and you have many different variations to fit your business.”
While the entire transition took about 18 months, with the first six to nine being the trickiest, the results are hard to ignore. Amanda Paull, VP of Marketing explains, “Suddenly, everything started flowing downhill with a lot of momentum – it was like a runaway train at first. Release after release, sprint after sprint, bam! Bam! Bam!”
Employing common agile tools like JIRA, Confluence and the Slack collaboration platform have all aided in transparency and organization and even in cutting overhead costs. “We’re all working from the same ‘dictionary’ so to speak,” says Martin.
The end result is inarguable: this transition has resulted in an increased release frequency from four to six per year to nine over the last twelve months. Additionally, service calls have dropped 60 percent and customers are much happier with the product and feel they are getting more value because of the faster releases and increased version control. In the end, says Martin, “it’s been an incredible transformation.”